World Refugee Day: Italian-Ukrainian Bilingual Books Distributed in Naples

In News by Porter Anderson

The ‘Tales of EUkraine’ project from the Federation of European Publishers and Ukrainian Book Institute is in Naples with AIE.

Children look at Ukrainian books in this photo from Books Without Borders. Image: Provided by AIE

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

In Naples: 250 Copies of Italian-Ukrainian Bilingual Books
Today’s (June 20) observations of the United Nations’ World Refugee Day. The world body’s secretary-general, António Guterres, has set “Hope Away From Home” as this year’s theme.

The UN estimates that dislocation has become such a severe worldwide phenomenon that 20 people “leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror” every minute.

Since the 2022 start of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine, there have been many efforts by members of the international book publishing community to respond to the relatively sudden Ukrainian diaspora with programs of books for children who have been displaced from their homeland.

The latest is in Italy, from the Tales of EUkraine project. That’s an effort, as  you’ll recall, of the Federation of European Publishers and the Ukrainian Book Institute with co-financing by the Creative Europe programming of the European Commission.

The first 250 copies of bilingual Italian-Ukrainian books from this project have been donated today—to children, young people, and associations—at an event organized by the city government of Naples, a program that continues to 7:30 p.m. CEST at the Real Albergo Dei Poveri in Piazza Carlo Terzo.

Books Being Offered Today

The three books available on this World Refugee Day are:

  • Ill gatto, il gallo e la volpe (The Cat, the Rooster, and the Fox) written by Graziella Favaro and illustrated by Emanuela Bussolati (Carthusia)
  • Comunque spero (Anyway, I Hope) written by Lesja Ukrainka with illustrations by Sonia Maria Luce Possentini (Carthusia)
  • Il Custode del Bosco  (The Guardian of the Forest) by Oleksij Cherepanov (Il Castoro)

Clicking on any of those publishers’ sales pages for the books will show you how they’re mentioning their participation in the refugee-children project.

For example, at the 30-year-old publisher Il Castoro, you’ll read that The Guardian of the Forest is “an illustrated Italian-Ukrainian book designed to be a sharing tool for Ukrainian children who have arrived in our country, and for all Italian children.”

Proceeds from sales of that book, the publisher says, will go to the Milan-based Refugees Welcome Italia, a nonprofit program devoted to what it calls “a new culture of hospitality, simple and effective.”

The Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) is, of course, engaged in the Tales of EUkraine project, as are publishers’ associations of Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia.

Ricardo Franco Levi

And in a prepared statement for today’s donation event in Naples, AIE and Federation of European Publishers president Ricardo Franco Levi is quoted, saying, “With these first copies, a wonderful project becomes reality, one created by the federation and AIE in Italy to support the Ukrainian book world.

“As publishers, we believe in books as a bridge between cultures.

“But these bilingual books are also a way for Ukrainian teenagers and children to maintain a connection with their country.”

Gaetano Manfredi

And speaking for the City of Naples, its mayor, Gaetano Manfredi, says, “In these days of great pain for the migrants who died in our seas, many of them children, the celebration of World Refugee Day takes on an even more relevant value.

“As demonstrated on this occasion in our port and in our daily institutional activities, Naples is a city engaged on the frontline for a dignified reception of people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.”

And a Word for the Grown-Up Refugees

Regular readers of Publishing Perspectives know our high regard, of course, for so many fine efforts in world publishing to bolster the children displaced by Russian’s aggression in Ukraine. The program we report on here today is one of these proud and important instances of publishing’s people rising to meet a clear and present need.

“The traditions of storytelling and literary insight from one’s own culture can help sustain fathers, mothers, grandparents, young adults, and those who are completely alone in their exhaustion, bewilderment, and fear.”

In these reports, we also like to remember that many professionals in the world publishing industry recognize that adult refugees from the Ukrainian crisis can also be supported by gifts of literature. Repeatedly, we’re glad to have news of these programs. Inevitably, they’re based in children’s books.

While these many books-for-children refugee programs are undeniably superb, the adult refugees of Ukraine and so many other countries can also find in books some of the comfort and connection to the homes and lifestyles they’ve lost, just as children do. Even a touch with an intellectual life that’s been overturned in such a crisis can help remind a suddenly homeless soul that stability and coherence really were in place once–and can be regained.

The traditions of storytelling and literary insight in one’s own language can help sustain mothers, fathers, grandparents, young adults, and those who are completely alone in their exhaustion, bewilderment, and fear. And perhaps soon we’ll see more of these fine refugee book projects take into account the needs not only of children but also of the adults—many of whom could use some help in trying to be brave, stable, optimistic, and strong for those beautiful kids.

Here is all our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing industry, as well as international reactions. 

More from Publishing Perspectives on the work of the Federation of European Publishers is here, more on the Italian publishers association’s (AIE) work is here, more on the Ukrainian Book Institute is here, more on the Italian book market is here, more on children’s books is here, and more of our coverage touching on book publishing and displaced people is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.